If you’re planning a family vacation, you might quickly realize that it takes a lot of saving, planning, and budgeting to pull it off. But while a family getaway might seem out of reach, there are many budgeting tips you can use to make your dream family vacation a reality. 

What if You Don’t Have Enough Money for a Family Vacation?

If you find that there’s just not enough wiggle room in your budget to swing a family vacation, you’ve got three options:

Earn Extra Money With a Side Hustle

You can always earn extra cash with a side hustle like food delivery, tutoring, or another money-making activity. Your earnings from these side-gigs can go directly into your “vacation fund.”

You could also opt to try online surveys for money. This is where market researchers reward you for sharing your opinion online. You can earn your choice of cash or gift cards. Some survey sites have dozens of gift cards for traveling. Among these, you will find gift cards for airfare, lodging, car rentals, meals, and more!

Cut Down on Expenses and Put Whatever’s Remaining in a Dedicated Savings Account

You could also make some small sacrifices now that can add up to big bucks later. For example, make some changes to your energy consumption to save on your electric bill. Or start making food from scratch and ditch expensive takeout. Then, put the money you save in a safe spot for funding your next family getaway.

Decide To Forego the Vacation Altogether 

Obviously, this is the least favorite option, and hopefully, it does not come down to this choice. Take heart if you can’t afford your vacation no matter how hard you’re working for it. Perhaps you could use some of the tips in this post to earn enough for the following year. Dont give up on your dreams just yet. A vacation might still be possible; you just may need to wait a little longer for it to happen. 

10 Tips for a Budget-friendly Family Vacation

If you’ve decided you’re definitely taking that trip in the immediate future, here are those tips we’ve promised you. 

1. Set a Budget for the Entire Trip

To effectively budget for your entire trip, you’ll need to know how much it will cost and what you’re willing and able to spend. So spend some time adding up each expense, including hotel costs, airfare, meals, and incidentals. Once you have a figure for the cost of the entire trip, you can decide where and how long you can stay. And with a total number, you can get a rough estimate of how much you’ll be able to spend each day on snacks, souvenirs, activities, etc. 

2. Stay Longer for Lower Per-Day Costs

Staying longer might seem counterintuitive to your goal of a budget vacation. But often, the longer you stay in one location, the cheaper your per-day cost is at your lodging. If you budget the rest of your vacation well, you can save a lot of money this way. For example, avoid expensive restaurants and enjoy cheap activities. Staying longer can actually decrease the overall cost of your vacation, as each day in your lodging is significantly less costly. 

3. Go To Exotic Places

Budget-conscious vacationers typically avoid exotic places. That’s because they assume it will be outrageously expensive. But you might want to take a closer look. Surprisingly, while airfare to some of the more distant destinations can be costly, the other expenses are dirt cheap. For example, countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia have beautiful sights and activities that Americans might not consider at first. In fact, it can cost as little as $20 a day to stay and eat at some of these locations. 

4. Make Your Own Meals

It can be tempting to eat out for every meal when on vacation. If you’re relaxing, why cook, right? However, if you want to travel on the cheap, it’s essential to pick and choose when and where you spend money on eating out. Especially with children, restaurants can be costly, so buying groceries and preparing some cheap, simple meals is a wise idea. For example, sandwiches are filling and easy to make. Plus, they don’t require too many kitchen tools. The same goes for cheese and crackers, cereal, muffins, and fruit. 

5. Bundle Attractions

Maybe you’re traveling to a popular city. In that case, you might have the opportunity to bundle some attractions in an affordable “city pass” for your family. For example, cities like London have pass offers that let you enjoy numerous sights, such as Madame Tussaud’s, the London Eye, the Shard, and the Tower of London. If your family wants to visit many different attractions, bundling them together can make your vacation more affordable. 

6. Pack Snacks

Children can be very picky when it comes to what and when they eat, and they usually need snacks or small meals during the day to be happy and well-behaved. Unfortunately, snacks can quickly take a chunk out of your travel budget. So if you want to avoid spending a ton of money on overpriced munchies while you’re out and about, make sure to buy some treats you can pack away in your purse or backpack for when your kids get hungry. And don’t forget drinks, which are notoriously expensive no matter where you go. 

7. Rent Houses or Apartments 

Instead of staying in expensive hotels, try renting out a house or apartment for a more affordable experience. Websites like VRBO and Airbnb offer home rentals that are often significantly cheaper than a hotel. They might even have amenities like a private pool or backyard space for your kids to run around. If you have a large family or one with small children, renting one of these properties can keep you from going crazy in a hotel on vacation. 

8. Pack Lightly

One of the most costly parts of airfare is that people often underestimate the weight or cost of their baggage. If your bag is overweight or you need to pay for an additional checked bag, this can cost anywhere from $50-$100 per bag. With a family of 5, paying for these extra bags can break your trip’s budget. Therefore, you should always aim to pack lightly on vacations to ensure you won’t need to pay for additional luggage.

9. Check out Free Activities

There are free activities in virtually every city, but some are more plentiful than others. So always check out free museums, parks, and playgrounds for free fun, especially if you have young children. Sometimes, the best activities are free, so don’t feel like you need to break the bank every time you want to do some family bonding on vacation. 

10. Travel During Non-Peak Times 

Traveling during peak times, such as early summer or your child’s school vacations, can be much more expensive than you think. Everyone wants to take their children on trips when they’re out of school. Hence, hotels often overcharge, and flights become more expensive during peak travel times. Instead, consider taking your kids out of school for a few days to take a trip during off-peak times. The memories you make with them will last a lifetime, and your trip won’t cost more than you can afford.

Bonus Ideas for Saving on a Vacation

While we have gone over 10 essential tips, here are a couple extra bonus tips!

Use Credit Card Rewards

If you’re flying somewhere, check your credit card rewards to see if you can get any hotel or flight discounts. Points from your card can save you hundreds of dollars on flights and hotels, especially if you’ve been saving them up for a trip. 

Make a Schedule in Advance

Having a schedule in advance for your trip can prevent you from making unnecessary purchases or going to costly places. In addition, researching which activities you want to do and restaurants you want to eat at will allow you to make smart financial decisions on your vacation. So the bottom line is, do a lot of planning, researching, and saving before your getaway, and you’ll feel like you’re living a rich life even when you’re on a budget.